Sunday, 8 August 2010

Genghis Khan, the exhibition in San Jose, USA

Genghis Khan, the exhibition
in the Tech Museum in San Jose, USA
From May 22, 2010

After a three-month run at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science which drew 175,000 visitors, "Genghis Khan: The Exhibition," opened on May 22, 2010 at the Tech Museum in San Jose. On display is an array of artifacts, many of which have never previously left Mongolia, and elaborate re-creations of Mongolian life during Chinggis Khaan"s time.
The organizers note that "there"s hardly anything that is known to have been owned by Chinggis or that his hand touched," they were able to assemble close to 250 artifacts drawn from Mongolia"s Archaeology Institute, five Mongolian museums, private collectors and — in the case of an 800-year-old mummy — the Smithsonian. They include shamans" costumes, elaborately woven silk robes, finely crafted gold bracelets and beautifully detailed swords, saddles and armor from the period.

William Fitzhugh of the Smithsonian Institution"s Arctic Studies Center, says Chinggis was an extraordinary ruler whose historical legacy needs to be reassessed in the West. Records from the period, many only now being uncovered, "give you a view of a person who is a superb organizer, a superb lawmaker, a fair and judicious ruler, somebody who supported women and gave women a lot of rights," says Fitzhugh, who is a consultant for the exhibition. "It"s wrong to say that Chinggis created a democracy, but, for the time, he was remarkably enlightened." It is the accomplishments of this "other Genghis" — as well as the achievements of his sons and grandsons — that are at the heart of the show.

The exhibition has 10 videos on aspects of life at the time, giant video maps, interactive (and kid-friendly) games and one exhibit that gives you the sense of being caught in the middle of a herd of horses. There are replicas of tribal villages and such war technology as a trebuchet, a siege engine designed by Chinese engineers that the Mongolians incorporated into their armies.

Each visitor"s ticket has a representation of one of five or six different people who would have lived during the time of the empire, and in each room, there are computers where you can go and see what happens to that person over the course of time.

In addition, "we have a whole bunch of demonstrators showing how the villages were set up and letting you fire a catapult. You get to put on Mongolian-style robes, and what I really like is that we have live entertainment every day for a couple of hours. The same traditions of dance and music that were around then are still around now — which is wonderful," the organizers have said in a promotional interview.

They predict that those who visit the exhibit will not only come away with just a very different view of Chinggis Khaan but also of "ancient history in Asia, something Americans generally don"t know very much about. That"s the central thrust of the exhibit: Let"s familiarize Americans with a particular period of Mongol history from a time when Mongol and Asian history changed the world."


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